We listen to respond rather than listen to understand.
When we communicate with others, a large part of our time is spent in our heads, rehearsing what we want to say, rather than paying attention to what is actually being said. We often miss important information and only concentrate on what we are going to reply. A big part of good communication is listening. Sometimes when someone is telling a story, they just want to be listened to. Personally, I can feel under pressure sometimes to reply or respond when someone is speaking. Over the years I have learned that being comfortable in silence and just listening can be just as effective. Our minds often drift away when we are listening to long stories. This weeks exercise gave pointers of how to be present whilst listening.
- Stay present. When you find your mind wandering off, bring it back to the present, just like in meditation.
- Let the speaker finish before you speak. Don’t interrupt.
- Listening is much more than just hearing words with your ears. Be mindful of the speakers body language and facial cues, their tone of voice.
- If you become aware of yourself rehearsing what to say next. Acknowledge this and stop it. Let it go.
- You may get an urge to fix or make things better when listening to someone’s problems or stories. You don’t have to give the person advice. Most of the time they just simply want a listening ear.
- Notice if there is a ‘me too’. I always do this. I used to think it was kind to emphasise and let the other person know they weren’t alone because it had happened me too. Sometimes it can be helpful. But sometimes you are just waiting to jump into the conversation instead of listening.
Listening VS Hearing
Listening is intentional and active. As opposed to hearing, which is the passive receiving of sound vibrations passing through the ear. We can choose to listen- or not.
As you become more aware of mindful listening, try widening your awareness to include experiences happening within the body. Notice any felt sensations happening when you are hearing. You may feel a sense of calmness and relaxation when listening to someone speak. Or you may feel your face frown and your belly contract. What emotions come about when you are hearing. A story someone tells you might make you angry or sad. Notice these emotions. The book advises to view these emotions as a passing state: “anger is here” rather than “i am angry”.
When we listen mindfully we are able to view the person speaking as a whole. Delve deeper into the history underlying the words that are being spoken. You might notice pain in the persons story and can response empathically.
This isn’t an easy practice. I’m known for jumping into conversations and being uneasy until I can jump in again. I find it hard to remain silent and can easily drift off into a day dream if a story is long and boring. The main thing to remember was is, it may sound long and boring to you but it is important to the speaker and they are you telling you it for a reason. Listen to the reason behind the story. Be gentle with yourself when you forget this practice and interrupt the person speaking. It takes time. Be aware of yourself doing this. The more you acknowledge it, the more chance of it becoming a reactive response.
How do you feel when someone actively listens to you?
How do you feel when someone interrupts you?